The effects of rising sea levels due to climate change are to be felt the hardest in low-lying coastal areas, such as Kiribati in the Pacific islands. This could spell the creation of a new type of climate refugee, where residents of low-lying nations flee from the dangers of rising seas. Having experienced the effects of rising seas, the City of Amsterdam has announced plans to invest €45 million in financially viable projects that make a demonstrable contribution to saving energy, the generation of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. It reminds us of the legend of the boy who put his finger in the dike (a sea wall) to stop water flooding Holland’s lowlands. Read more
The Myth: Little Dutch Boy, The by Peter Miller
Dutch legend has it that there was once a small boy who upon passing a dike (or dam) on his way to school noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole. Knowing that he would be in trouble if he were to be late for school, the boy pocked his finger into the hole and so stemmed the flow of water. Some time later a passerby saw him and went to get help. This came in the form of other men who were able to effect repairs on the dyke and seal up the leak.
This story is told to children to teach them that if they act quickly and in time, even they with their limited strength and resources can avert disasters. The fact that the Little Dutch Boy used his finger to stop the flow of water, is used as an illustration of self-sacrifice. The physical lesson is also taught: a small trickle of water soon becomes a stream and the stream a torrent and the torrent a flood sweeping all before it, Dyke material, roadways and cars, and even railway tracks and bridges and whole trains.
This tale originates from the American writer Mary Mapes Dodge and is in fact not a real myth, although many people believe it is. She published this tale in ‘Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates’ in 1865. The Little Dutch Boy is a very popular myth in the United States (and other countries), but is not well known in the Netherlands and has probably been imported there by American tourists.
By Nick Perry for Associated Press (3 October 2013):
• A man is trying to convince New Zealand judges that he’s a refugee… of climate change
• He hails from Kiribati, an island nation with implications from rising sea levels
• He claims the rising tides are killing crops, flooding homes and sickening residents
• He believes returning to the island would endanger the lives of his two youngest children
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A man from one of the lowest-lying nations on Earth is trying to convince New Zealand judges that he’s a refugee — suffering not from persecution, but from climate change.
The 37-year-old and his wife left his remote atoll in the Pacific nation of Kiribati six years ago for higher ground and better prospects in New Zealand, where their three children were born. Immigration authorities have twice rejected his argument that rising sea levels make it too dangerous for him and his family to return to Kiribati.
So on Oct. 16, the man’s lawyer, Michael Kidd, plans to argue the case before New Zealand’s High Court. Kidd, who specializes in human rights cases, told The Associated Press he will appeal the case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if necessary.
Legal experts consider the man’s case a long shot, but it will nevertheless be closely watched, and might have implications for tens of millions of residents in low-lying islands around the world. Kiribati, an impoverished string of 33 coral atolls about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, has about 103,000 people and has been identified by scientists as among the nations most vulnerable to climate change.
In a transcript of the immigration case obtained by the AP, the Kiribati man describes extreme high tides known as king tides that he says have started to regularly breach Kiribati’s defenses — killing crops, flooding homes and sickening residents. New Zealand immigration laws prevent the AP from naming him.
The man said that around 1998, king tides began regularly breaching the sea walls around his village, which was overcrowded and had no sewerage system. He said the fouled drinking water would make people vomit, and that there was no higher ground that would allow villagers to escape the knee-deep water.
He said returning to the island would endanger the lives of his two youngest children.
“There’s no future for us when we go back to Kiribati,” he told the tribunal, according to the transcript. “Especially for my children. There’s nothing for us there.”
The man’s lawyer said the family is currently living and working on a New Zealand farm.
Last week, an international panel of climate scientists issued a report saying that it was “extremely likely” that human activity was causing global warming, and predicted that oceans could rise by as much as 1 meter (3.3 feet) by the end of the century. If that were to happen, much of Kiribati would simply disappear.
Though that is a dire prospect, New Zealand’s Immigration and Protection Tribunal has said it is not one that is addressed by laws dealing with refugees.
In a decision recently made public, tribunal member Bruce Burson said the legal concept of a refugee is someone who is being persecuted, which requires human interaction. He said the tribunal rejected the man’s claim because nobody is persecuting him.
The tribunal found there was no evidence that the environmental conditions on Kiribati were so bad that the man and his family would face imminent danger should they return. Burson said the man’s claim was also rejected because the family’s predicament was no different than that faced by the wider population of Kiribati.
In his court appeal, Kidd said the fact that many people face the same threat is no grounds to dismiss a claim. He also argued that his client did suffer an indirect form of human persecution because climate change is believed to be caused by the pollution humans generate. He said his client also would face the threat of a climate-induced breakdown in law and order should he return.
Bill Hodge, a constitutional law expert and associate professor at the University of Auckland, said he applauded Kidd’s “ingenious arguments” but didn’t think they would succeed because his client hasn’t been singled out and victimized due to something like his gender, race or political persuasion.
But Hodge added that even if the Kiribati man loses, his case might make a good argument for expanding the definition of what constitutes a refugee. He said he expected there would be increasing pressure on nations like New Zealand and Australia to help provide new homes for Pacific Islanders threatened by rising seas.
Tidal gauges indicate the world’s oceans have been rising at an annual rate of 3.2 millimeters (0.1 inches) since 1970. Many scientists expect that rate to accelerate and for climate change to trigger more intense storms, which may pose an even more pressing threat to many of the world’s low-lying islands.
Kiribati’s government is pursuing its own strategies. It has paid a deposit for 6,000 acres in nearby Fiji, which Kiribati President Anote Tong has said will provide food security and a possible refuge for future generations. The nation has also been talking with a Japanese firm about the possibility of constructing a floating island, which would cost billions of dollars.
Rimon Rimon, a Kiribati government spokesman who said his opinions on the matter were his own, said he thought the man in New Zealand was taking the wrong approach. He said the government is working hard to train people in skills like nursing, carpentry and automotive repairs so that if they do leave Kiribati, they can be productive in their adoptive countries.
“Kiribati may be doomed by climate change in the near future,” he said. “But just claiming refugee status due to climate change is the easy way out.”
RYOT NOTE: Kribati is experiencing some of the many negative affects of climate change. The Ian Somerhalder Foundation is dedicated to reversing those affects and positively impacting the planet, by empowering, educating and collaborating with people and projects. They are comprised of a group of people who view the environment as an interconnected organism of which we are not separate but a part of. Click the gray box to learn more, donate and Become the News!
Amsterdam launches Climate & Energy Fund
From the I am Amsterdam portal (4 October 2013):
The City of Amsterdam has announced plans to invest €45 million in financially viable and sustainable energy projects. On 3 October 2013, Alderperson Maarten van Poelgeest launched the Amsterdam Climate & Energy Fund at the Amsterdam ArenA. The fund will invest in large-scale projects that make a demonstrable contribution to saving energy, the generation of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. An external body will be responsible for operating the fund.
Banks often deem sustainable investments as being too high-risk, especially in the initial stages of the project. As such, the new fund will be able to perform an important function, allowing the city authorities to boost investment in sustainability while retaining returns in line with the prevailing market. Alderperson Van Poelgeest: “It’s important that plans of entrepreneurs that try to make our city more sustainable get a fair chance. But this is not a subsidy, the projects have to be financially viable so the investment will be recouped.”
An independent investment committee comprised of experts in the field will review all investment decisions and perform a watchdog function. A decision will be taken in advance regarding the conditions applied to how the fund administrator operates, the type of projects the fund can invest in and the requirements linked to administration of the fund. The first 30 potential projects have already presented themselves and financing for several projects is expected to be announced by the end of the year. The revolving character of the fund means that any profits will be reinvested in the coming 15 years.
Investment in sustainable initiatives in the city
In addition to the external fund, the Amsterdam Investment Fund also has €4.75 million available for sustainable initiatives in the city. For example, Amsterdammers interested in saving or generating energy in their neighbourhood or launching a project to help reduce air pollution in the city can apply to the City of Amsterdam for a loan. They will benefit from a low, fixed interest rate of 1.99% on a loan with a maximum duration of 15 years. The City of Amsterdam recently selected eight city initiatives, representing a total investment of €1 million. Alderperson Van Poelgeest officially granted the loans on 3 October, with projects including the installation of solar panels on housing complexes, a football clubhouse, a school, a shop and a historical institute. Amsterdam has also granted a loan to facilitate the installation of double glazing in houses. Applications for the next round of loans will be accepted from 3 October.
About the Amsterdam Investment Fund
The Amsterdam city council established the Amsterdam Investment Fund in 2011, facilitated by the sale of shares in NUON. The fund makes a total of €70 million available for investment in projects linked to sustainability, improving the environment and addressing air pollution. The money is destined for investment in projects devised by residents, businesses, knowledge institutions and community organisations aimed at saving energy, generating renewable energy or improving air quality in Amsterdam. Investment is targeted at projects that offer strong social returns and contribute to the transition of energy or CO2 savings.